Last week, I was doing a small research on ‘how effectively we can optimize a Flash website for better search engine results’. On the same, I had a couple of discussions with some of the industry known experts in various forums and we all agreed on one point. If we get a chance to opt between a fully flash website or an HTML one, we will definitely choose the later. A fully flash website makes it difficult for SEO at present. There are options such as SWFObject or siFR or JS + but the RISK IS NOT ZERO. I repeat, ‘at present’. Things may change later and search engines may become smart enough to get it right.
Definitely I agree, Google now index flash websites and able to read the content inside flash movies. In the discussions about Flash and SEO, for some, it took time to digest this point, since they still hear some of the known experts keep on chanting ‘Search Engines can’t index Flash’. They tend to argue quoting from various blogs and threads, which repeat the same. A small advice to them, please check the date and year of threads or posts before you bookmark, SEO/SEM industry is dynamic, very much.
Coming back to our point, in reality, at present Google can read the content inside a flash movie, but at the same time they agree that it’s limited and they prefer non-flash websites. Here is what Google has to tell about Flash and other Rich Media Formats:
Flash and Silverlight (like other rich media formats) are inherently visual, which can cause some problems for Googlebot. Unlike some Internet spiders, Googlebot can read some rich media files and extract the text and links in them, but the structure and context are missing. Also, rich media designers often include content in the form of graphics, and because Google can’t detect words included in graphics, it can miss important keywords. In other words, even if we can crawl your content and it is in our index, it might be missing some text, content, or links.
I am not against using Flash or any other Rich Internet applications (RIA), but before spending thousands of dollars, I would suggest you to understand your needs.
Before opting a Flash website, ask yourself the following questions:
- Why to opt Flash or What you want to convey which cannot be done using text/Image and HTML/CSS?
- Is that only the rich display made you opt for Flash or you see a real benefit such as more user friendliness or interactions by having it?
- Do you really need a splash page with an introduction movie inside? What percentage you anticipate will actually watch that instead of clicking the ‘Skip’ button right away?
- Are you aware about Flash makes your website load slow, and as per various studies, normal tolerance level of an average user to wait for your page to Load is about 8 to 10 Seconds?
- How important is SEO for your website? Are you aware about the search engine optimization difficulties by having a fully flash website?
The risk is NOT ZERO implementing these techniques. Google wants you to provide your HTML version as close to the Flash as possible that makes it difficult to go on with. Search Engine Land has a post on this, please read it here.
- Do you know that using Flash for navigation makes it difficult to Link or bookmark individual page content and send direct links in email.
- How important you consider tracking your Visitors/implementing web analytics? Are you aware about the difficulties of tracking Flash or Rich Internet Applications (RIA)?
- What alternative you have for those visitors who don’t have a flash player installed in the browser?
- Last but not the least, in future, if you want to enhance your website, How difficult the task will be with a fully flash website?
This is very important for website owners who doesn’t have technical knowledge, and the .fla file -source file- provided. Mostly they won’t be provided with the .FLA file and thus you have to go back to the original developer to do even for very small changes.
A Word from the Author:
I repeat, I am not against using flash or any other Rich Internet Applications (RIA) on your websites. More over, I do have too many friends who do excellent flash websites with great success. But my point is, when a website owner spends thousands of dollars for his flash interactive website, he should be aware about those points mentioned above. Otherwise, after spending that much money on the design, he will go mad hearing, his website Sucks, from an SEO. The suggested option is, minimize the use of Flash, avoid important areas such as Navigation, main content to index and use it for spicing up your pages to please your visitors.